Jill Freedman's tools and techniques
Jill used two Nikon F cameras for all her shooting on the Circus Days and Old News essays. She worked with the Nikkor 21-, 24-, 35-, and 105-mm lenses. The 35 has always been her “normal.”
But within the last four years or so she has been using Leica M4s with gradually increasing frequency. Today, the Leica is her standard camera for most of her work with short-and medium-focus lenses, especially the 21 and 35. She also owns, and sometimes uses, the Leitz 28and 90-mm lenses. But for portraits she still prefers the Nikon with the 105, as well as a more recently purchased 180.
A person who hates to carry a lot of equipment, she usually works with just two bodies and three or four lenses, which go into a small canvas or leather bag, along with a small Vivitar flash unit she uses only when it can’t be avoided. For everyday personal street shooting she takes onlythe Leica and the 35-mm lens.
Although Jill does shoot color film occasionally on assignment, the great bulk of her work is done on blackand-white, and she uses Tri-X exclusively. The film is usually rated at 400 ASA. Nowadays, she determines her exposures using a Sekonic incident light meter, although for the circus essay she used a Weston reflected meter. She generally sends her film to the Portogallo lab in New York for processing, but sometimes does it herself using D-76 diluted 1:1, following the Kodak recommendations for time and temperature. On a roll where she isn’t sure, she will inspect the film for density during development using a green light.
Jill does her printing with a Leitz Focomat 2C enlarger and 50-mm Focotar lens. Work prints are done on single-weight Kodak Ektamatic paper, processed with an Agfa stabilization machine in Kodak chemicals. Prints for exhibition or publication are always made on double-weight (mostly #3) Agfa Portriga paper developed in Dektol. A self-confessed perfectionist, she often labors long and hard over a single print; burning, dodging, and bleaching until the tones are exactly right. “The better I get, the slower I print,” she said recently. “I guess the more you know, the less satisfied you are. Sometimes I drive myself crazy.” O.